Dribble Drabble #04

The Letter

Billy picked up the letter and kicked the door shut. He edged along the left side of the worn carpet to avoid a creaking floorboard. “Grandad!”

“In here son.”

“There’s a letter.” He handed over the brown envelope and dropped to his knees, stroking the cat to a purr.

The old man’s rheumy eyes read the contents, then searched the peeling wallpaper for meaning.

Billy read the bold header in his grandad’s lap, slowly enunciating the first three syllables. “‘Eve-ick-shun’. What does it mean?”

The old man smiled. “Do you think your mum’s offer of the spare room still stands?”

Who Can We Trust?

Recent media reports highlighted the worrying hold China has over the UK, after our government allowed it to become the North Sea’s top oil operator.  The communist-controlled China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) now runs two of our biggest oil fields, producing over 200,000 barrels of oil a day.

Boris in ChinaThis hold gives China leverage in negotiations with the UK Government, significantly weakening our control over our own energy sector.  Imagine what would happen if the Chinese were permitted to build and run a nuclear power plant in the UK, as is currently proposed?   Meanwhile, new Foreign Secretary, comedian Boris Johnson, has flow to Beijing to confound the Chinese with his buffoonery and buy time whilst the new post-Brexit administration works out what to do next.

For the British people, robbed of national assets through privatisation, the future looks bleak, as foreign governments, often hiding behind state-owned corporations, buy into our manufacturing, energy, transport and other key economic sectors.  Globalisation has done for us.  We have been asset-stripped and left powerless in negotiations with foreign governments, whilst our ruling elite have salted away fortunes in offshore bank accounts.  Is this really the country we want for our children?

Despite having a democratic system of governance, we seem powerless to make our political leaders turn away from the dark forces of global capitalism and prioritise citizen-focused issues.   Witness the London property market – locals have been priced out as it has been turned into a money haven for foreign ‘investors’.  We seem doomed to be patronised by the Westminster elite, doing the bidding of the super rich – hypocrites who are busy selling our country to feather their own nests.  They believe everyone is like them – obsessed with position and personal wealth accumulation.

Well, I have news for you.  Other nationalities have different perspectives and priorities, and in the case of the Chinese Government, it is to obtain ownership (through State-owned companies) of as much of the World’s mineral assets as possible.  To them, cash and barter of goods and services is a way to secure mining rights around the world, starting with developing countries.  This gives them both raw materials for their industry and political leverage that increases their power and influence.  They now have their eyes on Europe.

I’m sure the Chinese hierarchy look with amusement at the behaviour of BoJo the Clown and our other hypocritical political leaders who are self-obsessed and care little for the ‘good of the people’.  At least this last part chimes with the Chinese who see labour as a resource to be exploited.  Understanding this makes it easier for them to flatter and deceive our callow politicians into doing their bidding.

A report published in the mirror.co.uk on 24/08/16 talks about the Chinese using the positioning of oil rigs as ‘strategic weapons’, their rigs in a disputed area of the South China Sea described as ‘mobile national territory’.  For this reason the USA has moved to protect itself from Chinese ambition by blocking the sale of oil wells over security fears.  Paranoid or justified?  Meanwhile, the UK Government handed £2 billion in tax breaks to the CNOOC in 2015.  Oh, and by-the-way, General Nuclear Power, the Chinese state-owned corporation and the proposed partner in the UK’s £18 billion Hinckley Point project, is facing industrial espionage charges in the US.

The ‘investment’ of foreign governments, through state-owned corporations (including France’s EDF) must surely be a concern for the country.  In China’s case, it is a calculated bid to control energy generation in Britain to give them a power base – a toe-hold in negotiations with a weakened British Government.  Why would an elected British Government even contemplate such a deal?  Surely they have been put there by the British people to represent their collective interest?

Not a bit of it.  Global business interest thinly disguised as investment dictates our political agenda, and what is in the best interests of the country is relegated to a minor concern, tersely dismissed by our high-handed moralising politicians.  Will the British people really see the benefits of fracking for shale gas?  I think not – the gas extracted by private companies will be sold to the highest bidder on the global energy market.  We will have our countryside torn up to simply create wealth for a small elite, and still be paying through the nose for our gas supply.  That’s how it works.

All was going well for the Establishment until the unexpected Brexit vote.  The British electorate took umbrage at being patronised and instructed to Vote Remain.  They exercised the one bit of freedom they had left – the choice to vote against the hated money-obsessed Establishment and their Westminster-based toady politicians.  It was an embarrassing setback for the forces of Globalisation, but they have quickly re-grouped under a new Conservative Prime Minister, one with worrying similarities to Margaret Thatcher, who set the ball rolling on selling off our national assets some thirty years ago.

Has new Prime Minister, Theresa May, been given her instructions to return the country to a Victorian era voting system by removing those who are not property owners from the electoral register?  This would ensure no more disturbances from a peeved electorate to their capitalist agenda, and match nicely their plans to remove the Welfare State and its prize jewel, The National Health Service, tossing the welfare of the poor, sick and disabled into the arms of the charity sector.  It’s not as crazy an idea as you might think.  The soon-to-be-debated repeal of the Human Rights Act is just another attempt to strip us of our rights and return the country to an authoritarian system based on patronage.

At least we should be able to see the Chinese coming and veer away from their proposed ‘investments’.  However, our biggest danger remains the behaviour of our own Government.  How can we escape them?

Changes Made to Futuristic Novel

I’ve taken on board some useful feedback following the release of my first novel, Devil Gate Dawn, in April 2016, and as a result have made a few changes:

  • The cover has been changed to have a shadow figure standing at the gate
  • The quote on the front has been changed to, ‘Mild-mannered George must face his nemesis’
  • The start of chapter one now has George reflecting on an accident at work, indicating that such traumatic moments contributed to his decision to take early retirement.  Other work-related inner thoughts have been added through the early chapters, showing he is still haunted by past events.  These reflections stop when new events come to dominate his thoughts and actions.

DevilGateDawnModifiedCover_Aug_2016All in all, I’m proud of my achievement in pasting together this story from blogs and new material, and am thankful for the input of my copyeditor, Sinead Fitzgibbon, in helping to shape it into a structured story with sub-plots and suitably developed support characters.

George battles his way through problems with a calm, stoic approach, often bewildered by the extreme methods and actions of others.  In many ways, his pragmatic approach has mirrored my own problems with battling health issues whilst writing it.

I’ve made notes for a follow-up, and have pored over the 10,000 words of my abandoned novel, The Langley Leopard (submitted to the Richard and Judy novel competition three years ago!) that preceded this one, looking to salvage bits.

I’ve temporarily dropped the price to 99p and equivalent in other currencies to attract new readers.

In the meantime, I’m immersed in the mid-fifth century, ploughing on with researching and writing my next historical fiction novel, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans.

http://hyperurl.co/ii7gpl

Are You a Psycho?

Are you extremely self-confident, egocentric, charming and fearless?  Do you lack empathy for your fellow humans?  Are you employed in one of the following positions or professions?

Trump psychoChief Executive Officer (CEO); Lawyer; Broadcast Media Professional; Salesperson; Surgeon; Journalist; Police Officer; Clergyperson; Chef; Civil Servant.

These are the top ten most likely jobs for people with psychopathic tendencies, according to the ‘Great British Good Psychopath Survey’, run by Kevin Dutton, a psychologist at Oxford University’s Department of Experimental Psychology.

You’ll never look at your vicar/priest/pastor in the same way again, nor that calm, smiling police office.  Okay, we’ve known for years that business leaders, top chefs and TV presenters are psychos, but civil servants, surgeons and religious leaders?

The survey report points out that although people with psychopathic tendencies are drawn to high-paying power jobs such as CEO and lawyer, their difficult personalities may hold them back from succeeding.  Their out of work life may prove problematic, as their ‘difficult’ personality traits will put them at odds with others.

Jacks BackWhy not take the test below (as featured in the mirror.co.uk recently) to see where you are on the psychopath spectrum?  Reporters have been having fun with this, recently declaring that Donald Trump has a higher score on the scale than Adolph Hitler! (how Hitler answered from beyond the grave is not disclosed).

Answer these eleven questions as honestly as you can, count up your points, and post a message below with your score:

For each question award the following points:

0 = Strongly disagree

1 = Disagree

2 = Agree

3= Strongly Agree

 

  1. I rarely plan ahead.  I’m a spur-of-the-moment kind of person.
  2. Cheating on your partner is okay, as long as you don’t get caught.
  3. If something better comes along it’s okay to cancel a long-standing appointment.
  4. Seeing an animal injured or in pain doesn’t both me in the slightest.
  5. Driving fast cars, riding rollercoasters and skydiving appeal to me.
  6. It doesn’t matter to me if I have to step on other people to get what I want.
  7. I’m very persuasive.  I have a talent for getting other people to do what I want.
  8. I’d be good in a dangerous job because I can make my mind up quickly.
  9. I find it easy to keep it together when others are cracking under pressure.
  10. If you’re able to con someone, that’s their problem. They deserve it.
  11. Most of the time when things go wrong it’s somebody else’s fault, not mine.

How did you rate?  0-10 points means you have few psychopathic tendencies, and are a warm, cuddly, empathetic person with a conscience and sense of social responsibility.

11-21  You have a conscience, but have a pragmatic streak and generally aren’t afraid to do your own dirty work.  You’re neither a shrinking violet not a pushover.

22-31  Right or wrong isn’t as important as getting the job done.  You know what you want and go for it, even if it means bending the rules and putting some noses out of joint.  Nothing fazes you.  You are decisive and self-confident.

Hannibal Lecter32-33  You’re at the top of the spectrum, a total psycho.

How did I do?  I came in the 11-21 category – I’m an empathetic pragmatist.  I can get things done, but not by stepping on others…

 

 

Post-Brexit Blues

One week on from the shock of the Leave Vote winning the EU In/Out Referendum, and the country is still reeling in a state of fury, dismay, confusion, denial and regret. There have been marches and protests against the result – one might say, against democracy itself.  Instead of sulking over the drop in the value of their shares and properties, the well-off should spare a thought for the deep seething discontent in the country, and realise that our current political system has created this and continues to fuel it. Brexit Protest1

Our political leadership has been exposed as lightweight and not up to the job of leading us out of this mess. Opportunistic politicians have chosen instead to plunge the knife into rivals with personal ambition uppermost in their minds.  We were not prepared for a Leave Vote because the Conservative Party in government were busy assuring international partners that they would succeed in threatening and bullying the electorate into voting Remain.  They failed, and now stand like rabbits caught in the headlights of a runaway truck, careering madly across the cultural, social and political landscape.

“Rarely if ever in our lifetimes has Britain faced such an uncertain and unpredictable future. Rarely have the main parties at Westminster been, simultaneously, in such chaotic disarray. Who can recall a time when such a large section of the public, and not only the 48% who voted Remain, was in a state of such furious anger, confusion, denial, regret or heartfelt dismay?” The Observer (03/07/16).  We could fight them on the beaches, but who should we fight?  And who are we, anyway?

Personally, I feel the country should accept the outcome of the referendum and get behind a settlement for the nation so we can move forward.  This settlement must include listening to the voices of those who voted Leave, many voices of protest from those who feel a deep rooted resentment against the London-based ruling elite, who carry on their merry way, regardless of which party is in power, with their capitalist agenda, marginalising and patronising those who get in their way.

The Conservative Party has opened Pandora’s Box and must now be ruing their miscalculation in believing they could manipulate the outcome of the referendum to come down on the side of political and economic stability – the side that would allow the preservation of the status quo and the continuation of the damaging policies of divide and rule.  Vote Remain was seen as good for business, despite the fact that many see the EU as an undemocratic organisation in the process of morphing into a Federal Superstate.  Their political objects are not ours, and so a Leave Vote appealed to many in the UK –  52%, in fact.

Brexit Protest2However, as a result of the vote, we find ourselves at a social.political and cultural crossroads, and need to ask ourselves the question, ‘Who are we?’  A national debate on who we are and what society we want to live in should be fired up, to curtail the forces of greed, nationalism, xenophobia and division who lurk in the wings waiting for their moment.

The main problem I foresee is our lack of leadership, as our two main political parties are riven with infighting and hopelessly ill-equipped to address the fundamental divisions in our fractured society.  The Labour Party, having shuffled to the centre ground of British politics, is now disconnected from the core working class, and have become accomplices to the seemingly irresistible forces of ‘free market economics’,  ‘International Capitalism’ or simply, ‘Thatcherism’, take your pick.

The mass influx of cheaper labour to feed the machine has caused widespread discontent, as British citizens have been told to ‘shut up and get on with it’.  Well now they have had their chance to protest, via the In/Out referendum, and have chosen to stick two fingers up to the Establishment, and the sham democracy that leaves them as powerless serfs in an age of greed.

Can the Labour Party shake itself out of its torpor?  What of the Green Party?  They should get together and start a national movement for change. Citizens Against Capitalism. For starters, school leavers should be given clear guidance and training to do the jobs required, and we should focus more on producing what we consume.  Let the business community find new markets through the world wide web – are trade deals even relevant anymore?  Some fresh thinking is required, but can we find the leaders needed to drive the process?

In my near-future novel, Devil Gate Dawn, set just 10 years from now, I predict increasing divisions in British society following Brexit, that leads to a mass General Election boycott, followed by a Government of National Unity headed by King Charles.  It was complete fantasy just two weeks ago, but now has been described as ‘increasingly believable’.  My everyman hero, George, gets dragged into helping the police track down a deadly terror group, as they are forced to flee their homes and hide in the countryside… let’s hope it won’t come to this.

DGD promo banner 06_2016

UK: http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B01EGDLHLW

USA/World: http://amazon.com/dp/B01EGDLHLW

A Dystopian Brexit

“George picked through the odd assortment of items in his trolley outside the looted supermarket. Life inside the Red Zone had descended into a desperate battle for survival, as the caged-in labour pool waited glumly to find out if they had been chosen for a day’s work in the Green Zone to the east, or the Blue Commercial Zone to the west. A day’s labour for food tokens was as much as the working class could hope for in 2044 Britain….”

Welcome to the Red Zone

Yes folks, the EU In/Out Refendum poll takes place this week, on Thursday 23rd June, with the opinion polls now showing ‘The Remainers’ edging slightly ahead after a fraught period of bitter deadlock where ‘The Leavers’ appeared to have gained the ascendancy.  The violent murder of a Labour MP, by a mentally ill man shouting ‘Britain First!’ has been callously exploited by Remainers as a further threat to your personal safety in the wilderness of a non-EU Britain.  It appears to have tilted the predicted outcome in their favour.  Fear and threats are now standard tactics in British politics.

Resistance is crumbling and an air of resignation has set in amid threats of a collapsing economy and further hardship being piled on the ‘difficult’ white working class if they vote Leave as some kind of protest against the dark forces of Capitalism. They are angry that their ability to earn a descent wage is being eroded, their quality of life and future prospects are being gradually stripped away, as is their right to feel comfortable in their living space, recently invaded by millions of ‘alternative’ workers from poorer countries. But will a Leave scenario really help them?

If the vote really comes down to a question of ‘which right-wing politician do you hate the least?’ then it is a damning indictment of where we are after 30 years of Thatcherism, under which we are witnessing our national assets being privatised and the on-going dismantling of our welfare state, depressingly aided and abetted by the Labour Party. The disenfranchised working class have been backed into a corner, and now plan to vote Leave in a futile two-fingered protest against the Establishment, ignoring the fact that by doing so they are doing the bidding of political leaders who care less for them than the ones currently in charge.

It is a bleak scenario, a world where hope is gradually being strangled, and citizen’s rights are being sacrificed on the altar of capitalist greed. Our property market ignores the basic need for shelter for our people and has become an investment platform for the world’s rich, with no one asking how they got their money. The Establishment are lined up on both sides of the referendum debate, each group calculating their profits should their side win. They threaten, cajole and brow-beat a tired and increasingly powerless population, confused with so much mis-information, to vote for their side, so they may continue with their own brand of oppression.

It really is no choice at all for those at the lower levels of society. ‘What brand of personal hell would you like to vote for, sir?’ Go ahead and protest-vote for Leave, thinking it might slow up the process of replacing you with a cheap and easy to exploit foreign doppelganger. Now it’s immigrants, but in the future it will be robots – whatever is the most efficient and cost-effective way of having basic functions fulfilled in a world becoming polarised between the haves and have-nots.  What has happened to us?  Are we really sleepwalking into losing our rights, welfare and dreams?  It’s the illusion of hope that ultimately kills our souls and destroys our motivation to resist.

As for me, I’ll exercise my democratic right to vote (whilst I still have it) by presenting myself at the polling booth. But I intend to put a big cross through my paper – a NO THANKS vote. A spoilt ballot, but still a democratic statistic. I reject them all, and continue to hope for a sea-change in British politics, a change to a citizen-focussed agenda. I will not be the puppet of right-wing zealots.  That’s my personal protest.  Let the sneering BBC presenters pour cold water on all those who don’t buy into their misguided one-world utopian (but not in my street) hypocrisy.  They are misguided fools who are merely doing the work of those who exploit us for profit.  How about prioritising the needs of British citizens?  An unpopular proposition in this age of greed and short-sighted liberal do-gooding.

A plague on Bojo, Farage, Cameron, Osborne and the Slithy Gove! They are all products of the same private education system that props up the Establishment. They are all power-mad narcissists who only have their own interests at heart, who would rather seek out the company of international murderers and thieves with money to invest or launder in Project Off-Shore Britain than you or I.

Our role in their vision of future Britain is as low paid and powerless serfs.  So I say again, why should I vote for them? It’s like voting for your own internment in a Labour Pool Camp (see above). I have finally decided….I’m registering my protest at the failure of our democratic system to deliver an equitable and fair society, and at the elevation of selfishness and greed to an acceptable mode of behaviour, by SPOILING MY BALLOT!!!

Thames Valley Tales – Free Promo

Contemporary tales that echo the rich history of the flowing heart of England…

Thames Valley Tales is a collection of 15 short stories written by myself between 2013-2015 and first self-published on Amazon Kindle in July 2105.  To coincide with my presentation on Self-Publishing at Slough Library today (Thursday 2nd June 2016), and to demonstrate the ‘free promotion’ option on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP),  I have made the book a FREE download for today and Friday 3rd June…so what are you waiting for?

Please download, read, and leave a review, nominating your favourite stories…

UK: http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B011PQHJUQ

USA: http://amazon.com/dp/B011PQHJUQ

Thames Valley Tales promo masthead

What’s your Favourite Movie?

Social media can be a wonderful thing for connecting people with similar interests, ideas and goals.  Recently, whilst publicising the release of my novel, Devil Gate Dawn, on FaceBook, Twitter and Goodreads, I was contacted by some friendly folk in the USA with an offer of an author interview.  naturally, I said YES!

The Search for Endorsement

DevilGateModifiedPixThanks to the 79 who took advantage of the free weekend download promotion of my new novel Devil Gate Dawn. Now I’m hoping this converts into reads and positive endorsement in the shape of favourable reviews!

As an unknown writer with a modest following, I feel this is a justifiable tactic to try and get those precious reviews on Amazon that will entice browsers (who’ve read the reviews, blurb and opening extract) to click on the Buy button… it’s gotta be worth a punt at £2.10/$2.99 surely?

UK:- http://amazon.co.uk/dp/B01EGDLHLW

US/other:- http://amazon.com/dp/B01EGDLHLW

 

Welcome to the New Gotham

A headline in this morning’s Mirror newspaper (11/04/16) caught my eye – Tories’ London ‘Now a Capital for Laundering’. Candidate for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has finally come out and said what many have been thinking for some time: “We have people from around the world laundering money through London’s property market leading to hyper-inflation in property.”

Canary WharfIt’s almost as if he has broken a taboo by speaking out about our run-away property market, particularly in London and the South-East that actively seeks foreign investment, at the expense of the ability of citizens to buy a roof over their heads.  The insanely greedy buy-to-let spin off is causing much suffering amongst families and workers battling to survive in a divided city with a growing multicultural underclass of people forced into poverty by unaffordable mortgages and rents.  Homelessness is rising, and residents are being forced out by social cleansing.

The piece is accompanied by a colourful graphic showing how money laundering works:

  1. Placement. A criminal wants to hide sum of illegally obtained money, concealing the origin and ownership. The money is placed in an offshore account, usually in a British Overseas Territory.
  2. Layering. A complex network of transactions is created through several offshore company names making the money difficult to trace back to its origin.
  3. Enabling. UK professional services, such as lawyers, accountants and banks facilitate the transfer of the money into the UK.
  4. Integrating. The criminal uses the funds to buy UK property, luxury goods or art to integrate laundered money into the UK.

Khan goes on to say, “What possible reason could there be to buy a property using an offshore company? What possible reason could there be to buy a property from a tax haven?”

The Mayor of London would not have the powers to force buyers to be named, unlike in New York City, where they are ahead of us in this game of money laundering posing as ‘foreign investment’. Khan has called on the Government, “to ensure transparency.”

Meanwhile, over in the Houses of Parliament today, a cornered Prime Minister, David Cameron, will attempt to explain to the country his hitherto carefully hidden personal finances. He has benefited from his father’s tax-free offshore investments, from inheritance money ‘gifted’ to him in a tax dodge, and conveniently forgotten about a second property his family owns that yields income. His estimated net worth is over £40 million, but we will never know the full truth, or gain a clear insight into his privileged world. Wriggling like a worm on a hook, he has already lost credibility as a trusted leader who can lecture us on what is right and wrong. He is at the centre of a system that encourages the wealthy to hide their money from the taxman, whilst hypocritically lecturing us on the importance of paying taxes and the need for cut backs in public spending.  This is sounding more and more like an episode of Gotham, with its comic book characters, who seek to out do each other with their outrageous behaviour, whilst manically laughing all the way to the bank.

We can all understand the desire to pay as little tax as possible, and maximise on income. But here’s the thing. The majority of workers are employees who have tax and national insurance deducted from their earnings at source, and have no chance of wriggling out of payments for the running of the country (including MPs expenses). We are the cash cows of a rotten system. A system that encourages money laundering and welcomes ‘investment’ by murderous leaders of repressed countries with sham democracies; the world’s criminal elite. Picture a meeting of criminal gang leaders around a Gotham City bar room table.

We will all be made to regret the Thatcher legacy of the dismantling of the welfare state, the cheap sale of national assets, deregistration of the finance sector, and the whittling away of our personal rights and freedoms. Welcome to the New Gotham – where money can buy you anything, and no one asks where it came from.  It is a society divided between rich and poor, where criminal gangs battle with a shrinking police force and fear is used as a political weapon to keep the citizens in check.

A Pandora’s Box of sleaze has been opened, and the Joker has escaped.  Where is Batman when you need him?